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Your Sunshine Vitamin

by Cecilia Ho on in Health Issues

Your Sunshine Vitamin

Have you ever wondered what would happen if you lived without ever seeing the daylight? Aside from being confused about the difference between day or night, you would probably become severely depressed and have bones so brittle that you would snap like twig due to a severe vitamin D deficiency.

According to Statistic Canada, as Canadians most of us are not getting enough exposure to daylight or sunshine! Approximately, two-thirds of Canadians were found to have levels below the optimal range, while one in ten, or more than three million people, have such low readings that they don’t have enough for good bone health. As well, about 1.1 million Canadians or about four per cent of the population are actually vitamin D deficient, or low enough to cause nutritional rickets in children and osteoporosis in adults. Globally, vitamin D deficiency has become an epidemic.

We have developed this deficiency as a result of our modern lifestyle. Our lifestyles have become very sedentary, we spend long hours indoors working, we cover our bodies with clothes and lather on sunscreen. All of these actions rob our body’s ability to synthesize vitamin D because we do not allow our skin the opportunity to “soak-up” D from the sun. It is the interaction of the sun’s rays and a vitamin D precursor in our skin that provides the opportunity for vitamin D to be synthesized in the body.

Why Do We Need Vitamin D?

Nearly every tissue and cell type in the body has receptors for vitamin D. So you can bet that vitamin D is extremely important and serves many vital functions in our body (and researchers are discovering more and more everyday). 

Helps to Build Strong Bones – It helps regulate the absorption of calcium and phosphorous to build strong bones and teeth.

Increases Muscle Mass and Strength – Vitamin D receptors have been found on muscles fibers and a link has been found between vitamin D levels and muscle efficiency. Vitamin D supplementation may also be effective in improving skeletal muscle function.

Regulates the Immune System – And helps protect against certain diseases including many autoimmune diseases and even cancer.

Loves Your Heart – It may reduce the risk of high blood pressure through nitric oxide production – a substance in the body which causes your blood vessels to relax and maintain their elasticity.

Can Help You Burn More Fat – Recent research shows that vitamin D plays a crucial role in weight management by helping fat cells become more metabolically active. As well, receptors in your brain need D to keep hunger and cravings in check.

How much is enough?

According to the Vitamin D Council, 1000 IU’s per 25lbs of body weight in children are recommended daily and 5000IU/day for adults. However, we recommend getting a blood test to know where you are at as the best way to know your ideal dose.

How can I boost my vitamin D levels?

There are small amounts of vitamin D found in some foods such as oily fish (salmon, sardines, herring, cod) and eggs but it is difficult to obtain enough vitamin D from diet alone. Most people are only able to get five to 10 per cent of their vitamin D needs from their diet.

The best way to adequate vitamin D is through the sun or supplementation. Fifteen minutes a day of exposure of your bare skin to sunshine is ideal. How much vitamin D you can then synthesize and produce depends on the time of day, the time of year, the color of your skin and where you live. The more skin you expose to the sun, the more vitamin D is produced.  If you live in climates where levels of sunshine are low, and for those who are indoors a lot, such as office worker, taking a vitamin D supplement is the best option for you.

Vitamin D3 is the recommended form of vitamin D to take. This is the form the natural form of the vitamin and is most easily absorbed by the body. Vitamin D3 supplements come in a number of different forms, such as tablets, capsules and drops – choose the form that is easiest for you and your family to take. All Canadians need vitamin D supplementation from October 1st to May 1st each year because of the angle of our sun and the amount of daylight we have during the winter months. From May 1st to October 1st, supplementation will depend upon how much time you or your family are able to get outside without slathering on the sunblock or covering up with clothing.

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